Port Lincoln High School, SA

The school

Port Lincoln High School is a government school which caters for students from Year 8 to Year 13. The school offers a wide range of curriculum opportunities for students. There are around 780 students with a 10% Indigenous enrolment, a special class and 30% school card recipients.


School/site type: secondary education
Current enrolment: 741
Location number: 0791
Local government area: Port Lincoln (C)
State electorate: Flinders
Tourist region: Eyre Peninsula

Port Lincoln is situated in South Australia, approximately 670 kilometres from Adelaide, on the southern edge of the Eyre Peninsula. It has a population of more than 13,500 people and is an important grain and fishing port. Port Lincoln has Australia's largest commercial fishing fleet and, in recent years, fish farming has led to substantial growth in the city's economy. Many of the city's leisure activities revolve around the sea and include surfing, yachting and recreational fishing. The annual Tunarama Festival attracts tourists from around Australia and overseas. More information about the city can be found at http://www.visitportlincoln.net/

Program overview

The Year 8 unit 'Justice' is taught over ten weeks. The unit incorporates middle school methodology and integrates concepts from the learning areas of Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE) and English. The aim of the program is for students to develop an awareness of law and democracy with a specific focus on justice and Aboriginal law. The unit requires one 45-minute and two 90-minute lessons per subject per week.

The program uses the following Discovering Democracy materials:

  • Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Units
  • Australian Readers Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Collection.

The students

The 'Justice' unit was developed for Year 8 students. The unit ran simultaneously within two SOSE classes. There were 24 students in both classes, aged between 13 and 14 years. There were no students of Indigenous background in either class. The wider Port Lincoln school community and township has significant numbers of Aboriginal residents. Misconceptions and feelings of racial disharmony are common underneath the surface of everyday experience. Students generally approached the unit with an open mind when dealing with culturally sensitive issues. However, if challenged, they sometimes responded with significant racially inappropriate comments; this highlighted the continuing need to include the study of Aboriginal culture in the school environment.

Students undertaking this unit have had inconsistent experience with similar units of work in a primary school setting. Five different primary schools were represented in the class. There is a great diversity of student skill, knowledge from students' personal experience, general knowledge and prior learning exposure in formal education. Much of the language of rule, law, Aboriginal culture and the justice system was foreign to the students.

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of the 'Justice' unit address the requirements of the South Australian Curriculum Standards and Accountability (SACSA) Framework as detailed below.

Strand: Time, Continuity and Change

Key idea:

Students investigate and analyse events, ideas, issues and lives of people in their local community, nation and the world, identifying patterns, changes, continuities and possible futures. [F] [Id] [C] [KC1] [KC5] [KC6]

At Standard 4, towards the end of Year 8, the student:

4.1 suggests and justifies reasons why groups of people in societies, countries or civilisations have undergone changes in wealth and/or their ability to sustain natural resources. [F] [T] [C] [KC2]

Examples of evidence include that the student:

  • identifies changes that have occurred over time (eg resource availability, accessibility to resources by particular groups) [T] [KC1]
  • appraises how further change could take into account sustainability and fairness for all. [F] [T]

Key idea:

Students work cooperatively with others or in teams to discuss points of view and arguments about particular events or issues in order to consider the values associated with them and to explore ways in which future change or continuity can be influenced. [F] [T] [C] [KC2] [KC4] [KC6]

At Standard 4, towards the end of Year 8, the student:

4.3 interprets people's motives and actions from perspectives of power, and relates this to future possibilities, using an historical or contemporary event or issue. [F] [T] [C] [KC1]

Examples of evidence include that the student:

  • collects information from print and electronic sources on a chosen topic related to power, and critically examines this information in relation to motives and actions of the people involved. [T] [C] [KC1]
  • suggests preferred futures and ways in which they could be achieved, describing the range of factors that would be involved. [F] [T] [KC6]

Key idea:

Students gather, research, analyse, evaluate and present information from a variety of sources to show understanding of particular times or events, from a range of perspectives. [T] [C] [KC1] [KC2]

At Standard 5, towards the end of Year 10, the student:

5.2 researches and analyses primary and secondary sources to contextualise, justify and act on the basis of their interpretation of an issue, event or pattern. [In] [T] [C] [KC1]

Examples of evidence include that the student:

  • identifies perspectives not included in existing sources. [T] [C] [KC6]

Strand: Societies and Cultures

Key idea:

Students analyse critically the ways in which communities in Australia and other countries seek both to maintain social cohesion and foster cultural diversity. Using these insights, they consider and develop strategies for preferred futures. [F] [Id] [T] [KC1] [KC6]

At Standard 4, towards the end of Year 8, the student:

4.7 investigates and analyses the causes of disharmony or conflict in Australia's multicultural society, and suggests strategies for peaceful resolution of disputes. [F] [Id] [T] [KC1] [KC6]

Examples of evidence include that the student: 

  • identifies a situation where conflict or repression is occurring which affects an Indigenous, ethnic or religious group, and researches the historical reasons for the conflict [T] [KC1]
  • analyses conflict from different perspectives and examines bias in reporting [T] [C] [KC1]
  • discusses the power of people to influence others to hate or persecute, and trials and evaluates strategies to counter this [In] [T] [C] [KC2] [KC6]
  • explains and justifies a strategy for peaceful resolution which could result in mutual respect and dignity for all. [F] [In] [KC2]

Key idea:

Students develop research and social skills that promote recognition and appreciation of the heritage of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other groups. They develop the capacities to identify and counter prejudice and contribute to Reconciliation. [F] [T] [C] [KC1]

At Standard 4, towards the end of Year 8, the student:


 demonstrates critical understanding of their own cultural practices in comparison with the histories, cultures and present-day experiences of rural and urban Aboriginal groups, and acts for Reconciliation. [F] [T] [C] [KC1] [KC2]

Examples of evidence include that the student: 

  • analyses critically the effects of colonisation and repressive laws [In] [T] [KC1] 
  • explores cultural traditions of a particular Aboriginal group, comparing some aspects with their own cultural traditions [Id] [T] [KC1] 
  • identifies and analyses ways to promote Reconciliation among and between all Australians, in consultation with Aboriginal people, and acts to achieve more just futures. [F] [T] [C] [KC1] [KC2] [KC6]

At Standard 5, towards the end of Year 10, the student:


 identifies and analyses complex social, cultural and environmental issues and strategies, including self-management and land protection, that are important to local and other Aboriginal peoples today. [Id] [In] [T] [C] [KC1]

Examples of evidence include that the student: 

  • identifies and investigates the range of perspectives of Aboriginal peoples and others in relation to a particular issue affecting them (eg traditional Aboriginal law vs the Australian legal system). [Id] [T] [KC1]

Program outline

'Justice' was chosen as a core unit in the SOSE curriculum for Year 8 students but can be incorporated into the English curriculum. The program's overall objective is for students to develop an understanding of why rules and laws are necessary in everyday life. Further development sees a special appreciation of Aboriginal law and the dilemmas facing Aboriginal offenders having to be accountable to a traditional justice system and mainstream law.

Port Lincoln is a diverse community which has a large resident Aboriginal population. Awareness and understanding of issues facing the Aboriginal population is the first step towards promoting improvements in racial harmony at the local level.

The unit was designed to meet a variety of key ideas in the SACSA Framework.

Student outcomes

When a student has completed the unit 'Justice' they will be able to:

  • identify why rules and laws are necessary in everyday life;
  • have a practical understanding of the democratic process, such as how laws and rules are made;
  • investigate their own understanding of the term 'justice' considering what is fair in Australian and other cultures;
  • understand the depth of Aboriginal law (identify the significance of 'the Dreaming', family relationships and spirituality);
  • analyse specific examples of what appear to be injustices against Aboriginal people who have to be accountable to a dual system of justice.

Assessment tasks

A variety of assessment tasks were used within the English and SOSE units. Students were informally monitored on their contribution to class discussions, ability to respond to review questions and interaction with guest speakers. They had the opportunity to present their thoughts artistically during the initial study into the history of law and during the Aboriginal traditional law segments of the unit. Ample opportunity was also given in English (particularly with Parvana). A variety of questioning tools were used which tested the students' recall of information, understanding of particular processes and ability to analyse and record their opinions when presented with a controversial issue (the role of tribal punishments).

Curriculum resources

Discovering Democracy Secondary Kit
Author: NA
Publisher: Curriculum Corporation
Year of publication: 1998
Format: Educational resource

Australian Readers Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Collection
Author: NA
Publisher: Curriculum Corporation
Year of publication: 1999
Format: Textbook

Author: Deborah Ellis
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Year of publication: 2002
Format: Novel

The Burnt Stick
Author: Anthony Hill
Publisher: Puffin
Year of publication: 1994
Format: Novel

Rabbit-Proof Fence
Author: Based on the book by Doris Pilkington Garimara
Publisher: Magenta Pacific Video
Year of publication: 2002
Format: Video

Author: Various
Publisher: Disney
Year of publication: 1998
Format: Video

The Ngarrindjeri People: Aboriginal Peoples of the River Murray, Lakes and Coorong
Author: Education Department of South Australia
Publisher: Government Printer
Year of publication: 1990
Format: Textbook

Heinemann English Links One: Student Book
Author: T Glasson, J Binedell, J McGie
Publisher: Heinemann
Year of publication: 2000
Format: Textbook

Rules and Laws, Classroom Video R–7
Author: Classroom Video
Publisher: Davis Film and Video Productions
Year of publication: 1994
Format: Video

General references on Aboriginal law

The Essentials Series: Legal Studies (SACE Stage 2 Workbook)
Author: Barbara Bash
Publisher: Greg Eather and Associates/Adelaide Tuition Centre
Year of publication: 1996
Format: Book

Investigating the Law, 2nd Edition: An Introduction to Legal Studies
Authors: Geoffrey Short and Stephen Russell
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Australia
Year of publication: 1990
Format: Book

The Law Report: Aboriginal Law
Author: Various
Publisher: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Date of publication: 31/10/95
Format: Internet transcript from Radio National

Rights and Wrongs, 2nd Edition
Author: Susan Churchman, Margaret White and Helen Williams
Publisher: CCH Australia Limited
Year of publication: 1992
Format: Book

Rights and Wrongs, 3rd Edition
Author: Margaret White and Helen Williams
Publisher: CCH Australia Limited
Year of publication: 1994
Format: Book

Internet resources

'Aboriginal court days' under 'Court initiatives'

Background about the dreaming

Commentary of a senior traditional lawman in the Western Kimberley



As a result of the program, students were able to:

  • identify why rules and laws are necessary;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the democratic process;
  • explain what they understand by the term 'justice';
  • demonstrate an appreciation of what is fair in Australia as compared with other cultures;
  • describe the origins of Aboriginal law showing an appreciation of the significance of 'the Dreaming', family relationships and spirituality;
  • describe the difficulties of the dual justice system facing Aboriginal people.

Diverse learning styles were catered for as was the students' need for a stimulating, flexible and creative approach to the subject matter. Difficulty grasping 'Justice' language required the provision of numerous opportunities for students to use the language themselves.

Students were at times hostile to suggestions that Aboriginal issues were important and that they personally needed to address their ignorance of the historical basis for these issues. Students enjoyed the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence. This provided a gateway into viewpoints more accepting of the significance of the Aboriginal experience. It was especially powerful because the lead Aboriginal characters were of a similar age to the students.

Discussion relating to what is fair/not fair resulted in lively conversations, particularly in relation to the rights that other cultures have to exist in Australian society and the rights of men and women following the reading of Parvana and viewing the movie Mulan.

The need to include Aboriginal guest speakers with particular authority to speak on traditional issues, law enforcement and present-day court proceedings cannot be understated. We were particularly fortunate that our guest speaker on traditional customs is also a renowned country music singer so could not only speak, but also use music as a medium to engage the students. When seeking an Aboriginal person to act as a guest speaker, try to find somebody local or who is recommended by elders in the community and has the authority to speak on cultural issues.

Obstacles to be overcome

Students' prior understanding of law making in Australian society varied. It was important to ensure a solid understanding of commonly used law terms. The class at times found it difficult to show respect for the sensitivities of Aboriginal culture. Encouraging the use of culturally sensitive language when writing and speaking was particularly important.

Changes in future programs

Mulan provides an opportunity to examine the different situations and obstacles that boys and girls face when attempting to achieve what they want to in their lives.

There is a need to process the viewing of Rabbit-Proof Fence and the reading of The Burnt Stick by initiating debates, letters to government about the Stolen Generation, film reviews and character analysis.

The English unit is best rounded off by using Week 10 to reflect on the three major issues of injustice. A major assessment piece could focus on one of these three issues that students felt particularly passionate about.

We found a need to work more closely with people from the local Aboriginal community in order to develop resources which are directly relevant to this area. At the moment we rely heavily on written material which focuses on areas other than the Eyre Peninsula.


Curriculum Corporation would like to acknowledge the contributions of Sonia Warnest, Leonie Harwood and Joanna Tiffen – classroom teachers and curriculum designers of the 'Justice' unit. We also acknowledge Port Lincoln High School for their cooperation throughout the project and, most importantly, the students themselves.

Students whose work has been included:
Kirby Harvey
Michelle Hetzel
Bridget Ashman